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The Mythology of the Vakkhic Wine

I
n the 10th and 11th books of his Διονυσιακά the poet Nónnos describes the great love that Diónysos (Dionysus or Bacchus; Gr. Διόνυσος) had for the Thrakian Sátyros (Satyr; Gr. Σάτυρος) Ámbælos (Ampelos; Gr. Ἄμπελος, grapevine), but the lovely boy was killed by a bull. Diónysos grieved deeply over his loss and at last revived his beloved companion as the grapevine (book 12) and it is the grapevine which gives us the wine, the ínos (Gr. οἶνος). This is the origin-story of wine. 

Later in book 12, Nónnos very accurately describes wine as Ikhóhr (Ichor; Gr. Ιχώρ), the blood of the Gods:

"But the poets have another and older legend, how once upon a time fruitful Olympian ichor fell down from heaven and produced the potion of Bacchic wine..." (Νόννος Διονυσιακά 12.292, trans. W.H.D. Rouse, 1940. We are using the 1962 edition entitled Nonnos Dionysiaca Vol. 1 published by Harvard Univ. Press [Cambridge, MA] and William Heinemann [London], where this quotation may be found on p. 419.)


"...the pine swayed by Boreas brought her branches near the bunches of grapes, and shook her fragrant leafage soaked in the blood." (Ibid. Rouse, 12.316, p. 421.)

Indeed, the divine blood of wine is rightly thought of as representing the blood of Diónysos himself.


Who is 
Diónysos?

In the Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony we are taught the story of Zagréfs (Zagreus; Gr. Ζαγρεὐς), the son of Pærsæphóni (Persephone; Gr. Περσεφόνη) and Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς), of how he was sacrificed by the Titánæs (the Titans; Gr. Τιτᾶνες), and how his still-beating heart was saved and given a new life in the womb of Sæmǽli (Semele; Gr. Σεμέλη), transformed into Diónysos, and at last born from the leg of Zefs himself. For Zefs created a new generation of living beings, as perfect as possible in a Kózmos (Cosmos; Gr. Κόσμος) governed by natural laws. He provided immortal souls for his creatures yet these souls are imprisoned in ephemeral bodies which are blessed with lives having moments of great beauty while also doomed to interminable sorrows. But mighty Zefs is aware of our sufferings and is filled with compassion for our torments, so he conceived a plan. It is Diónysos who fulfills the providence of his father by providing a vehicle for us to escape the afflictions of this endless cycle of rebirths (κύκλος γενέσεως) and he accomplishes this by teaching us his Mysteries whereby he gives us the wine.


What is the Wine of Diónysos?

Many practitioners of Ællinismόs (Hellenismos; Gr. Ἑλληνισμός), the ancient Greek religion, learn that Diónysos gives us wine and they hear the stories of his worshippers getting drunk in Mystic orgies. This is very appealing to some people, particularly the young, and they imitate this and drink to excess in rituals which they believe are reconstructions from antiquity. And they hear that Diónysos is the God of irrationality. And they discover the opinions of the philosopher Nietzsche concerning the God. But most of this is a great misunderstanding, not only in modern times, but the wine and the character of this God were often misunderstood in ancient times as well. Yes, we do indeed make libations of wine in our rituals, but we do not drink to excess. The wine is symbolic of something far greater than wine itself; the wine is symbolic of the divine Aithír (Aether; Gr. Αἰθήρ) of Zefs and its influence on our soul. The Aithír of Zefs intoxicates the soul and in ancient times when they wanted to represent this, the euphoric effects of alcohol were likened to it, but the wine itself is only a symbol.

Dark red sweet wine is symbolic of the blood, the Ikhóhr of Diónysos, and, therefore, it is used in libation as a type of sacrifice. Just as the Titánæs (Titans; Gr. Τιτᾶνες) ate of the body of Zagréfs (Zagreus; Gr. Ζαγρεύς) in a holy ritual, we partake of the essence of the God by drinking the wine. We offer the wine to the Gods and pour most of it to the ground, and then we share of his divinity by drinking some. This is how we honor and reenact the sacrifice of Diónysos. And by doing so, we partake in the essence of the God and in the essence of his father. For both the son and the father have the same essence, the divine Aithír. This is the true meaning of wine and why, when we make libations in ritual and drink of the wine, it is an awesome and holy act. And this is why Diónysos is the great God of wine and the grape, for the wine represents and becomes the divine essence of great Zefs himself, the father of Gods and men, and the highest deity in all the Kózmos.



The story of the birth of the GodsOrphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

Introduction to the Thæí (the Gods): The Nature of the Gods.


The logo to the left is the principal symbol of this website. It is called the CESS logo, i.e. the Children of the Earth and the Starry Sky. The 
Pætilía (Petelia; Gr. Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kozmogonic substances. The twelve stars represent the Natural Laws, the dominions of the Olympian Gods. In front of these symbols is the seven-stringed kithára (cithara; Gr. κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς). 



PLEASE NOTE: Throughout the pages of this website, you will find fascinating stories about our Gods. These narratives are known as 

, the traditional stories of the Gods and Heroes. While these tales are great mystical vehicles containing transcendent truth, they are symbolic and should not be taken literally. A literal reading will frequently yield an erroneous result. The meaning of the myths is concealed in code. To understand them requires a key. For instance, when a God kills someone, this usually means a transformation of the soul to a higher level. Similarly, sexual union with a God is a transformation.


The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

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